London to York by train

How to take the rail journey from London to beautiful York

Despite its distance from the capital York can be easily visited on day trip by train as the route is one of the UK's fastest railways.
Though there is a choice between travelling on the trains operated by two different companies.

  1. LNER provides the most frequent train service, and 1st class travellers on its range have access to a complimentary food and drink service.
  2. Trains operated by Grand Central can be cheaper, particularly when booking at the last minute.
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Routes

Option 1: travelling with LNER

Travel Information

Final Destination: Edinburgh, Newcastle or York (or Aberdeen, Inverness or Stirling)

The London to York service by LNER trains has been transformed because after 41 years of service, the InterCity 125 trains have ceased operating on the East Coast main line!

They have been replaced by the brand new Azuma trains on many departures to York - when you look up a journey on the LNER website it shows whether an Azuma or an InterCity 225 train will be used on a departure.

Between 07:00 and 20:00 on Monday - Saturday there are typically 2 - 3 x LNER trains per hour from London to York.

The fastest trains, which are scheduled to complete the journey in around 1hr 51min, are non-stop to York.
These trains are usually scheduled to depart from King's Cross station at
Mon- Sat: 08:00; 10:00; 11:00; 12:00; 13:00; 14:00; 15:00; 16:00 and 19:00.
Sunday: 09:00; 10:00; 11:00; 12:00; 13:00; 14:00; 15:00; 16:00; 17:00 and 19:00.

However, there are alternative trains on this route operated by Grand Central and its services are also non-stop from London to York, so they pretty much match the journey times of the faster LNER trains.

On Mondays to Saturdays, some early morning and late evening LNER trains, plus the LNER trains which depart every other hour (in the odd hours) between 07:06 and 15:06 are comparatively slow and complete the journey in around 2hr 25 mins.
These trains, which have York as a final destination, make six station calls during the journey

Tickets

Choosing a departure:

As can be seen on the 'Journey Information' above, there is a comparative large difference in the journey times of the LNER trains from London to York, and this impacts on how tickets are priced on this route.

The faster trains are calling at York on route to destinations in Scotland and LNER understandably wants to be sure that space is available on those departures for travellers going beyond York.

Hence the most heavily discounted 'Advance' tickets are often not available for those faster trains, but they are much more likely to be available on those slower trains, which don't travel beyond York.
So if you want to travel by LNER trains between London and York, it's likely that you'll need to make a compromise between price and journey time.

Booking advance tickets:

The two key things worth knowing about booking and using 'Advance' tickets are:
(Though the T&Cs of using Advance tickets have been made more flexible for journeys taken before September 30th).
(1) This type of ticket can't be refunded if you subsequently change your travel plans, or miss the train in circumstances not to do with a connecting train.
(2) A £10 admin fee will be payable if you want to exchange your ticket to a different departure to the same destination, to that which you selected when making your booking PLUS you will ALSO be charged any price difference with the new ticket you'll then have to purchase.

What is unusual about booking with LNER is that Advance tickets are now available online up to only 5 mins before departure.
They will have sold out sooner on the most popular trains, and the earlier you can book the cheaper they will be, but before buying walk-up Off Peak or Anytime tickets at a station, just prior to departure, it's worth checking on your phone to see whether Advance tickets are still available, before heading to the ticket counter or machines.

On the least busy Monday to Friday departures 'Super Off-Peak; tickets are usually available, they'll be more expensive than Advance tickets, but will give you greater flexibility with your travel-plans.
You will only have to pay any price difference with a new ticket, if you swap them to a different departure less than  24 hours ahead, there will usually be no difference in price to pay.
They can also be refunded for an admin fee of £10.

Travelling on Monday - Friday:

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date.

However, when you look up a journey you may see dates further ahead on the calendar, but you'll be informed that tickets aren't yet available for those dates.
On the LNER website you'll be prompted to sign up to a Ticket Alert service, on a PC, over on the right on the screen you'll be taken to, you'll see the furthest date ahead that tickets can be booked for.

Travelling on Saturday-Sunday

Tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the travel date, but maintenance work on the route is periodically undertaken at weekends and if it is scheduled on your travel date, it can affect when tickets will be released for sale.

If you're looking up a journey less than 12 weeks ahead and tickets aren't available, it can be a good indication that works will be impacting on your travel date.
It can be worth checking this on the National Rail website - enter LNER as the operator.

Making an end-to-end journey will still be possible, so it can be worth signing up to LNER's ticket alert service, though you MAY ultimately have to take a substitution bus service for part of the trip.
It's the confirmation of these alternative travel arrangements which can hold up the release of the tickets for sale.

Reservations

When you book an Advance ticket for a London to York train journey by LNER, you will be automatically assigned a seat(s), but if you book the other types of ticket ahead, you can request a complimentary reservation - more info on this

Seat reservations aren't automatically included when booking Off Peak or Anytime tickets online, but you can add the complimentary reservation, once you've made choice of departure, either when booking or afterwards.
When booking walk-up tickets at a station ticket counter, if the Advance tickets aren't available for the next departure, confirm whether a seat reservation has been added to the booking of an Anytime or Off Peak ticket, in theory reservations will be available until around 5 mins pre-departure.

If you will be using a rail pass, including a Britrail or Eurail pass, you should be able to obtain a reservation, at no charge, from a ticket counter up until 5 mins before the departure; keep this in mind as it is not the norm when using rail passes in Britain.

Receiving Your Ticket(s)

If you book with LNER the four options for receiving your ticket(s) are:

(1) You will receive a booking reference number on your order confirmation email and you can use this reference number to collect ticket(s) from a ticket machine.
Some stations will have dedicated ticket collection machines, but standard ticket machines will also have an option for collecting pre-booked tickets.

You will need to enter your reference number into the machine, so make sure you'll have easy access to it when you are using the machine.
You will also need to insert the specific credit or debit card you used when making the booking, so have that with you too.

Showing the email you received to staff at the ticket gates won't get you on to the train, nor will this be valid if you can only show the email to the conductor when you are on the train.

If you forget to bring your ticket(s) with you to the station, but do have the card with you that you used when booking, you can use the machines to collect your ticket(s).
Take your time and take care that you have picked up all your ticket(s) and seat reservations.

(2) Print off the tickets you receive before heading to the station - the instructions for doing this are available here.

(3) Opt to pay an additional charge to have your tickets posted to you - not available when booking tickets from outside the UK.

(4) Mobile tickets - if you select this option when making a booking you will need to download the LNER Travel Buddy app so that you can 'Activate' your ticket.

The LNER website states that 'Advance' tickets will be automatically activated, but there's no suggestion on the LNER website that it will be OK to save the ticket(s) you will receive as a PDF to your mobile device.
So download the app to be sure that you can use a mobile ticket.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
LNER from £18

LNER Guide

LNER offers a couple of services which offer additional benefits to how tickets are usually sold for long-distance journeys:
They are:

  • a https://www.lner.co.uk/tickets-savings/your-ticket/price-promise/ service, which enables its customers to claim refunds for the differences in price between LNER and other booking agents for journeys by LNER trains.
  • LNER Perks is a useful service for those who regularly travel by LNER trains.
  • Seatfrog is a service by which those who have book Standard Class tickets can 'bid' to upgrade to First Class seats.
    In effect you can set the additional price you will be willing to pay to travel in First Class and if your price matches the winning bid, you'll be able to upgrade.
National Rail from £18

National Rail Guide

In Great Britain each Train Operating Company provides its own booking service for journeys by its trains, but many of their websites also sell tickets for nationwide journeys, regardless of which company operates the trains on the routes you wish to travel by.

The National Rail website is plugged into all of the train operator's booking services, so when more than one of these companies offers tickets for a route, it in effect offers a price comparison service.
It isn't a ticket agent, so you will be connected to the website of your choice in order to make a booking.

RailEurope from £18

On this journey

Option 2: travelling with Grand Central

Travel Information

Final Destination: Sunderland

These trains to York (and beyond) operated by Grand Central are usually scheduled to depart from King's Cross station at
Mon-Sat 08:06; 11:27; 12:57; 16:48 and 19:27
Sunday: 09:55; 13:48; 16:53 and 18:22

They are therefore much less frequent than the alternative service of LNER trains, but these Grand Central departures are all non-stop between London and York, so they pretty much match the journey times of the fastest of those fastest LNER trains.

So on Monday to Saturdays, if you want to travel non-stop to York from London by train, you can choose to either travel on these five Grand Central departures, or on eight LNER services.

So if the departure times suit, these Grand Central trains can be a good option for a train journey from London to York.

Monday-Saturday = 5 x trains per day
Sunday = 4 x trains

Tickets

Take a Grand Central train or an LNER train:

As pointed out in the guide to taking the alternative LNER services from London to York, if you take a train operated by LNER on this route, it tends to offer its cheapest 'Advance' tickets on its slower trains which have a journey time of more than 2hr 10 mins.

Tickets for the faster LNER services on the London to York route, tend to cost more than on its slower services, but these trains operated by Grand Central, come very close to matching the journey times of the faster LNER trains.

So if the timings of these Grand Central trains suit, and its cheapest 'Advance' tickets are still available on your travel date, they can be a good option for a London to York train journey
The Advance tickets on these Grand Central trains tend to be cheaper than on the LNER trains which are non-stop from London to York.

Although compare the ticket price carefully if you want to travel First class, as the complimentary food/drink service on the LNER is more extensive than what's offered on these Grand Central services.

If you look up a train journey from London to York on the Grand Central website, you can directly compare the departure times, prices and journey times of these Grand Central services with those LNER services.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Grand Central from £18.70

Grand Central Guide

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